Dan Brown Cleared in Da Vinci Code Case

04/07/2006 at 10:00 AM EDT

Dan Brown Cleared in Da Vinci Code Case
Dan Brown
Ian Nicholson/PA/ABACA
A British judge has rejected a claim by two writers that The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown stole his premise from their earlier work of nonfiction, CNN reports.

The lawsuit, brought by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh against Brown's publisher, Random House, charged that Brown "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (published in the U.S. as Holy Blood, Holy Grail).

Brown's novel, which has sold more than 40 million copies since its March 2003 release, centers on the idea that Jesus married and had children with Mary Magdalene.

Baigent and Leigh's nonfiction book explores the same theory, which has been dismissed by most historians and theologians.

Brown admitted he'd read their book, and even called one character Sir Leigh Teabing – an anagram of their names – as an acknowledgement of their work. But, Brown said, Holy Blood was just one of many sources he'd used in his research.

High Court justice Peter Smith said, "The plaintiffs’ case has failed."

Following the verdict, Brown released a statement that said the decision showed the suit was "utterly without merit."

"I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all," Brown said.

The Da Vinci Code was released in paperback March 28. A film version of the novel starring Tom Hanks is scheduled to hit theaters in May.

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